Much of what we know about Nicholas is legend. It is said that his parents died when he was young, and that he gave all his wealth to the poor and became a monk; he was even imprisoned at one time.
What we know from fact is that in the 4th century, he was elected Bishop of Myra, which is near modern-day Turkey, and that he was a man of goodness and charity.
Legend has it that Nicholas decided to help a man so poor he could not afford a dowry for his three daughters to marry. One night, Nicholas tossed a bag of gold through the man's window for one's dowry. He later did the same for each of the other two daughters. When the father discovered it was Nicholas, he offered his gratitude, but Nicholas asked that his identity be kept a secret.
This story introduced the idea of gift-giving at Christmas. In some countries, children still find candies and gifts on Saint Nicholas's Day. In other countries, including the United States, the tradition has shifted to December 25th, when children find presents secretly delivered by St. Nicholas or "Santa Claus". The traditions associated with St. Nicholas has brought immense joy and happiness to children all over the world.
Friend to the poor and protector of the troubled, St. Nicholas is one of the most popular saints ever. Sailors and bakers have adopted him, Russia and Greece have made him their patron and artists have painted him more often than any other saint except for Mary. St. Nicholas embodies the spirit of generosity and love.
Wonder-working follower of Christ,
from your early years,
you practiced fasting
and were outstanding in generosity.
You quickly distributed to the poor
what you had inherited from your parents.
Traveling to Palestine,
you became a bishop
and dared to preach the Gospel,
for which you were thrown into prison.
As "Santa Claus"
you are still loved today.
Teach us to be generous like you.
From From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
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